ashes and beer!

From the AshesIt’s been a pretty busy time … a few things to update and for me to reflect on.

So we arrived at the bus stops at 730am on Ash Wednesday. We were both robed. I was a little nervous. We positioned ourselves, with our small containers of ashes and a handful of our postcards which had a lent prayer and explanation attached to them, at each of the bus stops opposite each other and waited.

We did not have to wait long until we were engaged in conversation with a variety of people. Some asked about the ‘fancy dress’ while others told us simply that they knew it was Ash Wednesday and, ‘yes please …. could you ash me and pray for me’.

In all we gave ashes to just over 30 people in the hour we were there. People seemed encouraged and blessed by our presence; even people who did not wish to receive ashes or a postcard commented that they liked to see ‘the church’ out with the people. Lots of people did not wish to engage and avoided any eye contact and it was very right to respect their dignity and give space, but many also wanted to engage and ether connect or reconnect in some simple way with God, their Creator.

Wednesday morning was encouraging.
Then came Wednesday evening.

For a large part of the previous week I had posted a message asking anyone that was interested in birthing a new church on the Greenwich Peninsula to meet me at the local pub on Wednesday evening. I even blogged it here. After much prayer I felt this was right to ‘put out there’ and was convinced that, through this, I would find the first of the new people that would join us to create church here.

I arrived very confidently at 7:55pm.
I waited.
I waited more.
It seemed I waited an age so I looked at my watch and saw it was only 8:15pm.
I laughed at myself.
8:15 became 9, and 9 became 10.
No one came. No one showed up.
The good beer could only be a scuffed and scratched, rather than silver, lining on the evening.

Whenever you plan or hope to meet with people and they do not show it is hard to take. I was convinced I would meet one key person that evening … and yet the reality was I felt pretty invisible and anonymous in the pub. A few weird looks at the start (obvs I was in dog collar!) dissolved into nothingness. Even in Rochester I was sworn at or the butt of jokes ….. but here … nothing!

It felt harsh.
I wondered if I had got everything wrong.
I questioned whether what I am trying to do here is even possible.
I then I heard a memory …. a memory about presence and being present.

I had to acknowledge that I believe I have been called here by God to work with the people that are here to create something. But …. over and above that calling, God asks me to be present here. Properly present, present and available. We were present and available in the morning and people were encouraged …. I was present and available in the evening and seemingly people didn’t notice …. but it is immaterial …. it changes nothing …. present and available is what I am called to be  ….. and present and available is what I will continue to choose to be.

So I go out today …. not too sure where … but wherever …. present and available is what I will be.

 

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6 thoughts on “ashes and beer!

  1. Really glad the morning went well, I was thinking of you and keen to hear how it had gone. Isn’t it amazing that often an encouragement is followed by a discouragement or vice versa? Success and failure and how we respond is surely core to our personal development, and subsequently our impact on those around us. Be very blessed mate.

  2. thanks my friend …. yes … but howI wish at the mo that those two opposites of encouragement and discouragement did not alway seem to go together so closely in time.

    how we respond is sometimes the only thing within our control …. we have the freedom, often, to choose to behave in a certain way

    thanks for your encouragement and look forward to seeing you when you are next in this amazing city.

  3. Pingback: Ashes, cake and beer – Essential Thinking

  4. I am glad the morning went well, that’s great. I wouldn’t ever say that the evening was a failure! It may have felt awkward, you may have felt like you stuck out like a sore thumb, but actually, you did what God asked of you. You didn’t leave at the first sign of discomfort or dissatisfaction. Maybe that night wasn’t meant for you to see people…. but for people to see you. Don’t be discouraged. I don’t believe God wastes obedience. Hang in there.

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